Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the North
Andy Harris
Motoring and Property Editor
12:11 PM 21st November 2020

Arctic Truck On Manoeuvres – Unstoppable!

The pickup truck market in the UK is changing. Mercedes-Benz has withdrawn its pricy X-Class from sale and for the time being the Volkswagen Amarok has also disappeared. The latter will return as a joint venture with Ford.

Mitsubishi has recently launched its new L200 (review coming soon) and Isuzu’s new D-Max will finally arrive in the UK in the spring of next year. It should be worth waiting to see whether the hype is to be believed.

On test here is the current D-Max, though one which has been extensively modified by Arctic Trucks and known as the AT35. They work with many of the pickup truck manufacturers to produce vehicles that can take on the toughest and most demanding conditions, in far flung places such as Scandinavia and Iceland.

Fitted with Isuzu’s familiar 1.9-litre turbo-diesel engine producing 164PS and 360Nm of torque, this motor meets Euro 6 standards without needing Adblue. It makes a decent job of moving the bulky AT35 around, but refinement is not its strong point, especially when fully extended.

My test vehicle came equipped with automatic transmission, a smooth operator. I would avoid a D-Max with manual gears, the notchy shift gets rather irksome with extensive use.

The raised load bed is well shaped and can easily hold a one tonne payload and those who need to tow will find even the biggest trailers an easy pull (3.5 tonne towing capacity).

The latest AT35s come fitted with new Bilstein suspension and rather fabulous 35-inch Nokian Rotiva tyres, the aim being to smooth progress on road without diluting the pickup’s considerable off-road abilities.

Equipment count is high, and a new nine-inch touchscreen and quilted leather seats are the highlights. Also now fitted is a reversing camera, a definite boon when manoeuvring in tight spaces.

Used as an everyday vehicle, the AT35 is a delight. The raised driving position gives an excellent view out and high-speed cruising is a relaxed and refined affair, as a late-night blast to Manchester Airport proved. In wet conditions I would always engage four-wheel drive (a simple turn of the dial) otherwise the handling can get a little ‘lively’.

I have been lucky enough to drive the Arctic Truck off road on a few occasions before and this time I had a plan. Ford also offer a rather special version of their Ranger pickup, the Raptor, and the plan was to bring them together for an off-road shoot out.

My good friend Damian from The Mud Life magazine arranged to have the Ford on test and as the name of his esteemed publication implies, he is something of an off-road expert.

We rendezvoused close to the M6, destination the Lake District for a full day of exploration. The Lakes are littered with accessible tracks, all with a firm base and all with permitted rights to access with a motor vehicle. We came, we enjoyed, we left no trace!

Not unexpectedly both vehicles were in their element. My job was made easier as all I had to do was follow my leader. I could watch the lines the Raptor took and adjust my route accordingly.

Both trucks are extremely wide, and this did cause us a few breathe-in moments. With careful control and a little old-fashioned marshalling, both vehicles emerged from the day’s antics unscathed.

In the tightest of spots, the AT35 was a tad more manoeuvrable and those Nokian tyres offered a little extra grip on the most challenging sections. Both vehicles have excellent ground clearance which was to be a definite boon on some of the slower rock crawl sections.

Towards the end of the day the AT35 lost power and an engine management light lit up. Whether hour after hour of low speed shenanigans had taken its toll, I am not sure. Once back on terra firma and having covered a few quicker miles, normal service was resumed.

And as a road vehicle, the Ranger Raptor gets the nod. It has more power, a more refined engine and slightly better ride and handling. The interior is a tad more upmarket too.

So, which would I choose? Although I have no use for either pickup, I would be happy to drive either on a daily basis. However, much as I like the AT35, I would choose the Ranger Raptor if push comes to shove.

Damian and Andy. Another hard day at the office
Damian and Andy. Another hard day at the office
However, with the new D-Max on the horizon, and I therefore assume a new AT35 in due course, I suspect the tables may well be turned. That is a story for another day and one which I look forward to telling.

Fast Facts

Arctic Truck AT35
Price £40,995 + VAT
164PS 1.9-litre turbodiesel engine
Combined economy 36.2mpg
Emissions 205g/km CO2
1.1 tonne payload
3.5 tonne towing capacity
700mm wading depth

Main pictures by Will Larmour of Route 65 Photography –